Take a ride to Omaha hi-lo

Nov 24, 2009 5:02 PM
Back in the Saddle by Johnny Hale |

This week I’d like to discuss one of the poker games whose popularity has skyrocketed in recent years – Omaha Hi/Lo Split, eight and better poker.

In this year’s World Series, as well as other major tournaments and poker rooms throughout the country, operators have recognized its popularity – most likely fueled by Internet play – and have added the game to its roster of offerings.

The game of Omaha is played with a lot of cards and the pot is awarded half to the best high hand and half to the best low hand. Note the low hand has to be 8 high or lower (five cards, unpaired, with the highest rank being 8 or less).

When you are playing limit Texas Hold’em, you only receive two personal (hole) cards, and by using these two cards you have a knowledge of about 4 percent of the deck.

The knowledge of one card equals about 2 percent of the information about the deck.

However, when you play Omaha Hi/Lo Split, you will receive four personal cards. Thus, you have a knowledge of almost 8 percent of the deck. Also, you must use two of your four cards to form a hand with the board – thus, for example, to make a flush you need two suited cards to go with three on the board; you can’t use one card plus four, like you can in Texas Hold’em.

At the flop, three common cards are revealed, which represents another 6 percent of the information about the deck.

Combing knowledge of your four hole cards and three common cards, you now know about 14 percent of the deck. This represents about 1/7 of the deck.

You can expand your knowledge if you’re able to recall how other players play.

For instance, if you know that old Henry will never play unless he holds at least one ace and two other wheel cards, then you’ve expanded your knowledge of the deck. (A wheel is a straight, ace to 5, and usually wins both the high and low pot.)

Similarly, some players will always raise if they have four small cards – 6’s and smaller.

If you study and remember what transpires and can figure out the cards your opponents are likely holding or playing, you will have a distinct advantage.

By developing this skill you can come up with another 8 percent to 24 percent of the knowledge of
what cards are in play on any particular hand.

You do not have to be correct all the time to get the money, but if you use your mind, you can become an expert at reading what hands the other people are playing.

At this point, you will have 40 percent to 50 percent knowledge of all the information that you will need to win the pot.

Now let’s go back to your fourth grade math. The deck is about 50 percent little cards and 50 percent big cards.

If a flop of little cards is exposed, and Henry likes to play little cards, then you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to believe you could lose the low side of the pot.

So you just use your common sense and give up on this pot.

But if the flop comes big and you know that Henry will likely leave the pot if you bet or raise, then you know this is a potential winning situation.

You can do the math to work out your possibilities of winning the pot on the high or low side. Plus you won’t waste any money raising or betting players if you suspect they are holding close to the winning hand.

This is the part of the game in which luck is less important; this is where skill is of value.

If you rate the players and make a mental journal of their tendencies, you will be shooting down hill and playing with 60 percent to 90 percent knowledge of a particular poker hand.

You will have a definite advantage when you have that much knowledge about what it may take to win the pot.

The average player will have only his 8 percent knowledge, so be nice and bet him a little amount and he will call. If you bet a lot he will fold – do not be a greedy poker player.

So, winning at Omaha Hi/Lo belongs to the thinking player!

You can sleep and play Texas Hold’em, but to win at Omaha Hi/Lo Split you will need to use your head for more than to fill space between your ears.

I will be back soon with more about knowledge and some of the skills of poker.

Until next time remember to stay lucky.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Johnny Hale

You can try out your strategy by playing our free live online poker.